QRO at 5 watts

I’ve worked the last couple of contests at 5 watts using the FlexRadio 1500 and as I’ve said on CW I don’t see much of a difference between 5 and 100 watts especially on 40 and up. On SSB it’s harder but not impossibly so. In real-world testing I get S-7 reports when the 100-watt guys get S-9. On ordinary QSOs this is absolutely insignificant. In contests, it’s critical and brings out the best operating techniques on both sides of the QSO.

But I’ve been fooling myself.

Five watts is way too much power. Watch this video of a British ham , G7VJR, running .1 watt working K3LR (one of the USA’s big contest stations that has the best equipment, antennas and operators) on 40-meter CW.

The photo is of G7VJR (left) and John, K3LR who met at the recent Visalia International DX Convention. The photo is lifted from the ARRL newsletter and was taken by N0AX.

On Air Etiquette

During the Ontario QSO Party this weekend I was working a friend, Mike, VA3MW, on 40 meter phone. (That’s Mike likely on one of the towers of the VA3SK contest station just outside of North Bay, Ontario.)

I was running my FlexRadio 1500 into the Explorer beam with the 40-meter extensions at 5 watts. Mike was running a 100 watts with his FlexRadio 3000 from a community north of Toronto which is about 15 miles north of me. We’d been talking for a minute or so when a third station broke in to say we were 6 kHz wide.

When we asked the guy where he was and what he was running, I think he thought we were challenging his report and he got a little huffy. It was at that moment we asked him to identify so we could continue the QSO as least legal and figure out what was happening. That was when he disappeared.

That’s a real shame on two counts. One is breaking into a QSO without identifying is both illegal and just not gentleman-like. Two, I’d really like to know if I talking with a guy who’s running a IC-706 with the noise blanker and preamps on (which can create all kind of crud in the receiver) or was he running something current and maybe the issue was with my station.

My guess he was a couple of hundred miles south of me, so with me running under five watts I’d loved to have the opportunity to figure out what was happening at his end of the QSO.

Mike and I had a look at our signals on the Flex scopes and panadaptors and we both looked good and sounded good to each other. But that doesn’t mean we were “perfect” which was the shot our friend made before he wandered off. Mike is a bit of technical wizard (and like me a professional photographer) and is helping me setup the FlexRadio 1500 (which is running perfectly on SSB and CW) on the digital modes. Our friend? Who knows.

On Friday when I was getting the station ready for the QSO party I heard another guy complaining about a station 10 kHz down (I think we were on 40 meters again.). I didn’t hear a problem but I thought I’d followed him down as he wanted to deliver a message. Once the guy’s QSO finished, our friend called the station with the BIG signal and asked what he was running. Seems he was running a solid-state amplifier at about 800 watts with a lot of compression.

His auto was fearsome. I’d call it contest-quality if I was being charitable 🙂

My bet was anyone who was having a normal QSO with him would have had a headache within five minutes. The guy who had complained had the good sense not to repeat his complaint as the guy with the amp was clean. Loud but clean!

It takes a little courage to break-in and identify yourself when you’re delivering a message but that’s how it has to be done to be both legal plus helpful. And, if you find the other guy is actually running clean, then it’s a nice gesture to say something complementary and dial in a couple of db of attenuation into your rig. (Used to have to run the IC-756 with 6 to 12 db in every contest to help the front end when I wandered into kilowatt alley.)

Moving forward

Okay: Enough with the despair.

I’m reading the morning papers and listening to politicians on CBC and all the articles and all the speakers say pretty much the same thing. The great unwashed (my description) league of potential voters essentially want just one thing. And what is that one thing? It’s to be engaged in the political process of determining their own future.

It’s the same thing when it comes to amateur radio in Canada. Once we get a wash and a rinse we’re a pretty respectable group and what do we want? We want to be engaged in the future of our amateur radio experience.

Thus we get individuals like me and others who keep advocating for changes and encourage inclusiveness and we’re not afraid of hearing criticism and new ideas.

So how does an organization such as our national radio association engage the massive potential of the overall amateur radio community in Canada?

We invite them to join us.

We offer reasoned and intelligent comment about how it is everyone’s best interest if we have a strong national association. We offer overtures to amateurs in those provinces where we’re not strong (or virtually non-existant) in numbers. We create easy to understand documents that don’t look like they were penned by backroom bureaucrats or ex-military strategists. We develop national goals around the enrollment of young people. We re-engage with Industry Canada and our political leadership to keep our objectives front and enter on their agendas. And, the list goes on.

So what’s stopping us from accomplishing these goals?

Knobs – Human and otherwise

It’s Sunday morning and after a Friday night power yoga class that damn near killed me I keep forgetting I’m in my 60s.

Tried to pick up a 35-year-old fellow student in my yoga class which was going pretty well until Marion walked over and hit me with my rolled up matt. Okay that didn’t happen but it could have.

BTW and this comes from the book Younger Next Year which was highly recommended to me by my buddy Mike, VA3MW: Do you know what happens when a beautiful young woman looks at a man like me? She sees the wall behind me. How sad and true but how wonderful I have a wife who understands my ageing mind and where I put my attention.) so now I’m sipping my coffee feeling pretty zany and replying to tons of emails.

One of the best emails of the morning comes via VA3MW about what you can do with a SDR. If you’re not up on software-define radio you will be as this is the way of the future. Anyway to see how much fun you can have designing hardware interfaces to the SDR have a look at SOFTWARE DEFINED HAM RADIO blog where W9OY offers us another excellent posting.

As for the human knobs…I’m still reading through my emails and that’s coming next!

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Five Reasons To Join RAC and One Reason Not To

Why should any of us join Radio Amateurs of Canada?

It’s simple. As Canadian amateur radio operators we need:

  1. To speak with one voice to Industry Canada and our national politicians;
  2. To be represented on international radio regulating committees and national and provincial decision-making groups;
  3. To grow amateur radio in Canada by attracting new members especially new younger members (I’ll settle for anyone under 50.);
  4. To maintain and grow our national readiness to help our fellow Canadians in times of need (The Fukushima reactors were built to survive known conditions. Oops!)
  5. To foster better relations with amateurs in all regions of Canada (I’m thinking here of Quebec where we have almost zero representation).

So why shouldn’t you join RAC?

  1. With the exceptions of point 2 to some extent (thanks to one or two dedicated volunteers) and point 4 (where there’s already been some discussion about how ARES will survive the demise of RAC), none of the above has happened or is happening.

Now there’s been RAC board decision to eliminate all the callsign@RAC.CA address for all non-members. This is staggeringly shortsighted. It’s something I’d expect from a small-minded club executive but not the leaders of our national organization. It’s no way to attract new members or endear yourself to your existing shrinking membership base.

One or two more decisions like this one and I doubt we’ll have to concern ourselves about the current national organization anymore.